Prompt for April 24 – Virtual Carson McCullers House

Following a recipe, following a knitting pattern, flowing through a hands-on project step-by-step with a formula to guide it — these can be some of the most satisfying and soothing activities. Write a piece that uses the format of a list of instructions. Let it meander off course, if you want. Or describe an exercise in following instructions that goes horribly wrong. Let your inner muse provide the manual…

Write something and join us on Zoom at 7pm for reading and conversation. Send us your writing for the River River blog. We will try to publish as many pieces as we can during this quarantine and virtual salon period. This is our way of keeping up as much of the vitality of our in-person circles as possible.

Prompt for April 24 – Virtual Barat House

Once Upon a Time . . . but better?

Make a short list of fairy tales you know well. Was there something about any of these stories you’d like to play with or change? For example, I personally think that if I were Cinderella, I would prefer a pair of Seven League Boots to glass slippers. And perhaps the story of Snow White, a poisoned princess in suspended animation in a big glass box resuscitated by the breath of a courageous man, takes on new meaning in the era of the coronavirus, suggesting hyper-reality rather than straight escapist fantasy.

Once Upon a Time . . . but better. Use the prompt to inspire your work in any form (poetry or prose; fiction of any genre; creative nonfiction, essay, or memoir).

Log into our virtual meeting at 1pm here for readings and discussion.

If you’d like to post your work to our blog, visit Submittable after 12pm to upload your work. We will do our best to publish everything we receive.

Memoir by david e bell from our virtual circles

A Walk Up the Driveway (4)

The distance across my harbor.
The equator of my world.
At dusk, an amble up the drive
gray gravel damp underfoot
a milk over cereal crunching

The damp chills through to the bone tonight. I’m traveling again, time and space are soft and fluid. It’s the 60’s. It’s one of those infinitely long early summer evenings in the south of England. The low angled sunlight is warm gold. We’ve gone walkabout from our lodgings. We’re near Canterbury, if memory serves me right, on the edge of the rolling green the English call the Downs. Horse country in so many ways.

Not far there is the giant outline of a running horse etched onto the side of a hill. The horse dates from late Bronze Age, some time between 1380 and 550 BC. Turf was cut away by ancient artisans revealing the white chalk underneath. What is amazing is that from inception until late in the 19th century, there has been a chalking day festival every seven years and as part of the festival the turf was trimmed back, and swept clean.

Continue reading “Memoir by david e bell from our virtual circles”

Prompt for April 22 – Virtual Didier Dumas

Born for This

I’m seeing the cans of sweetened condensed milk and corned beef that have been staples in my family’s pantry from childhood and before that, dating back to World War II and earlier times of need. There they were at the beginning of March, 2020, ready to fulfill their purpose in the appointed time and place.

I’m also seeing a video of a stately grandma, posted recently on Facebook, in which she vows to endure quarantine and survive Covid-19 just for the satisfaction of voting in November and seeing an end to the current presidency.

Born for this. Use the prompt to inspire your work in any form (poetry or prose; fiction of any genre; creative nonfiction, essay, or memoir).

Log into our virtual meeting at 8pm here.

If you would like to post your work to our blog, visit Submittable after 7pm to upload your work. We will do our best to publish everything we receive.

An admission: This prompt has been used as titles for everything from a song in a Spiderman score to a book guiding radical self-acceptance through astrology. The point is—to explore the idea of belonging to a time and place for a purpose, great or small.

Thank you for staying!

When our writing circles had to move out of public in March, you asked us when we would be back.

When we went online with virtual meetings, you showed up and bore with our adjustment fumbles, even when our discussions leapt over the now-famous-worldwide, 40-minute time-fence and we had to haul ourselves into second meetings without killing the flow.

When we invited you to extend the conversation to our blog, you sent poetry, fiction, and nonfiction into to illuminate our isolation.

And you donated! While our writing circles and Journal are powered by dedicated volunteers, your support allows us to have writing circles and issues of our Journal at all! You allowed us to upgrade our Zoom account so that we can now let our discussions sprawl into limitless delight. And as always, you are keeping our Submittable link active, enabling us to reach out through Meetup, paying for the servers that host our website, and providing the community support that keeps us going.

Our reading series is one of the things we will keep going in coming months, possibly in the virtual world, we’re not sure, but will announce details as they fall into place.

Thank you for showing up. Thank you for donating. In times of shadowy uncertainty, thank you for staying bright and staying creative.

Thank you for staying.


Image from the heady days of in-person arts celebrations, June 2019. This is most of our board, plus a few close friends, at last year’s Arts Council of Rockland Fundraiser. Some board members are doubtless at the bar. Another has recently visited same and has stepped behind the lens to introduce his or her “softly focused” vision to the image.

Fiction by Catherine Moscatt from our virtual circles

A Dragonfly Fairy Tale

I was friends with a dragonfly. Wings of blue, he made his way through my garden, sometimes landing on the back of my chair.

“I’m tired of being the butterfly’s ugly cousin,” he lamented.

I promised he was beautiful.

“You’re lying,” he said, but apparently dragonflies could blush.

Continue reading “Fiction by Catherine Moscatt from our virtual circles”

Prompt for April 17 – Virtual Carson McCullers House

A month in quarantine feels very long. One strategy I’ve been using to keep a reasonable perspective is to read things from a very, very long time ago. The human voice extending across eons, with its continual dramas ebbing and flooding by turns, helps my sense of time go back to normal, for a little while at least.

I think in that regard, the Greek poet Sappho might be the queen of such comfort. Here is an excerpt of a poem fragment published in the July/August 2016 issue of Poetry Magazine, translated by William Logan:

Now you'd like me on my knees,
crying out to Hera, "Blah, blah, blah,
bring him home safe and free of warts,"
or blubbering, "Wah, wah, wah, thank you,

thank you, for curing my liver condition."
Good grief, gods do what they like.
They call down hurricanes with a whisper
or send off a tsunami the way you would a love letter.

If they have a whim, they make some henchmen
fix it up, like those idiots in the Iliad.
A puff of smoke, a little fog, away goes the hero,
it's happily ever after...

Take that as you will for a prompt. Address gods and/or mortals in your writing, and then join us for readings and conversation in the Zoom meeting at 7pm today.

Prompt for April 17 – Virtual Barat House

Writing with Animals

“Some animals, given the miraculous gift of speech, can also testify to human experience.” Poet Alan Felsenthal, in a recent course description, invited writers to explore relationships with the animals in their world. Have you had an encounter with an animal recently? Did you hear its voice?

Use this to inspire your work in any form (poetry or prose; fiction of any genre; creative nonfiction, essay, or memoir). See some examples below.

Log into our virtual meeting at 1pm here for readings and discussion.

If you prefer to post your work to our blog, visit Submittable after 12pm to upload your work. We will do our best to publish everything we receive.

Examples of writing with animals from recent literature:

“Fox 8” by George Saunders tells a fable to inspire compassion through a fox that learns to write (but not to spell, at least not very well). “One day, walking neer one of your Yuman houses, smelling all the interest with snout, I herd, from inside, the most amazing sound. Turns out, what that sound is, was: the Yuman voice, making werds. They sounded grate! They sounded like prety music! . . . I was fast and nated by those music werds, and desired to understand them total lee.”

The Bear, a short novel by Andrew Krivak, tells a post-apocalyptic fable from the point of view of the last girl on Earth. After her father’s death, she learns how to survive and live in harmony with nature to old age by opening herself to non-verbal but highly nuanced conversation with a bear.

River River Writers’ Circle board member David Bell photographs and posts a series of birds at the feeder outside his lockdown home, #atthebirdfeeder on Facebook. The birds’ images suggest captions ranging from aphorism to comic quip to full-on poetry.

Let your sense of wonder, surprise, and play guide you!

Prompt for April 15 – Virtual Didier Dumas

The Sacred Elephant

The Sacred Elephant by Gustave Moreau, courtesy of Google Arts and Culture.

A piece of “ekphrastic” writing traditionally responds creatively to a work of visual art . . . literature having a conversation with image. Use the prompt to inspire your work in any form (poetry or prose; fiction of any genre; creative nonfiction, essay, or memoir).

Log into our virtual meeting at 8pm here: Zoom meeting

If you prefer to post your work to our blog, visit Submittable after 7pm to upload your work. We will do our best to publish everything we receive.


The Friday group had so much fun last week with a twist on “the elephant in the room” that I thought it would be fun to stick with elephants.

This lovely image comes from the National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo, Japan, through the pandemic miracle of the world’s art collections available through Google Arts and Culture. These have been greatly expanded due to the Covid-19 crisis shutting down all the museums. Miracles truly do abound.

For further fun and play, here’s a Hudson River rainbow for your sacred elephant to play under.

Memoir by david e bell from our virtual circles

A Walk Up the Driveway (3)

The distance across my harbor.
The equator of my world.
At dusk, an amble up the drive
gray gravel damp underfoot
a milk over cereal crunching

I’ve stopped counting the days. Unknown minus N is still Unknown. Even I have to acknowledge that this is no longer an imaginable voyage. It has become a passage through a very first world hell.

Continue reading “Memoir by david e bell from our virtual circles”